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Political Notebook

Congress passes bill to fund Capitol security, Afghan visas

Capitol Police officers at the Capitol in Washington.
Capitol Police officers at the Capitol in Washington.T.J. Kirkpatrick/NYT

WASHINGTON — Congress overwhelmingly passed emergency legislation Thursday that would bolster security at the Capitol, repay outstanding debts from the Jan. 6 insurrection, and increase the number of visas for allies who worked alongside Americans in the Afghanistan war.

The $2.1 billion bill goes to President Biden for his signature. The Senate approved the legislation early Thursday afternoon, 98-0, and the House passed it immediately afterward, 416-11.

Senators struck a bipartisan agreement on the legislation this week, two months after the House had passed a bill that would have provided around twice as much for Capitol security. But House leaders said they would back the Senate version anyway, arguing the money is urgently needed for the Capitol Police and for the translators and others who worked closely with US troops and civilians in Afghanistan.

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The bill loosens some requirements for the visas, which lawmakers say are especially pressing as the US military withdrawal enters its final weeks and Afghan allies face possible retaliation from the Taliban.

The money for the Capitol — including for police salaries, the National Guard, and to better secure windows and doors around the building — comes more than six months after the insurrection by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters. The broad support in both chambers is a rare note of agreement between the two parties in response to the attack, as many Republicans still loyal to Trump have avoided the subject. The former president’s loyalists brutally beat police and hundreds of them broke into the building, interrupting the certification of Biden’s election win.

The bill’s passage comes after four police officers who fought off the rioters in the Jan. 6 attack testified in an emotional House hearing on Tuesday and detailed the “medieval” battle in which they were beaten and verbally assaulted.

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Harris offers broad outlines of plan on migration

SAN DIEGO — Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday efforts to address root causes of migration from three Central American countries won’t produce immediate results as she unveiled a broad strategy that expands on principles the Biden administration previously outlined.

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Harris said the United States alone cannot tackle deep-seated motives for people to leave Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, including corruption, violence, and poverty. The governments of Mexico, Japan, and South Korea, along with the United Nations, have committed to joining the push, she said without elaborating.

The plan, which avoids deadlines, supports short-term relief for migration pressures like extreme weather while committing sustained attention to long-term motivations for people to leave their countries.

“We will build on what works, and we will pivot away from what does not work,” Harris wrote in an introduction to the 20-page plan. “It will not be easy, and progress will not be instantaneous, but we are committed to getting it right.”

Harris noted that she recently traveled to Guatemala, “where one of the largest challenges is corruption.” On Tuesday, the Biden administration said it suspended cooperation with Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office after the firing of the agency’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, saying it ‘’lost confidence” in the country’s willingness to fight corruption.

Harris’s task, which President Biden assumed when he was President Barack Obama’s vice president, is enormous in scope and complexity, and the administration has struggled for short- and long-term responses.

Authorities reported large numbers of arrivals at the Mexican border in June, with significant increases in people arriving in families and children traveling alone. The trend appears to be continuing in July, when soaring temperatures often deter people from coming.

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A group of 509 migrants from Central and South America turned themselves in Monday night in Hidalgo, Texas, hours after another group of 336 migrants was encountered nearby, said Brian Hastings, the Border Patrol sector chief in Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

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Sanders backers focus on more modest goals

WASHINGTON — Stinging from the disappointment of Bernie Sanders’ loss in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, supporters pumped millions into the powerful advocacy group Our Revolution to keep the progressive fight alive and prepare for another swing at the White House.

But after another defeat in 2020, the 79-year-old Vermont senator is unlikely to run for president a third time. And the organization centered on his fiery brand of politics is undergoing a rebranding.

Rather than insisting on “Medicare for All” — Sanders’ trademark universal, government-funded health care plan — or the climate-change-fighting Green New Deal, Our Revolution is focusing on the more modest alternatives endorsed by President Biden. Those include expanding eligibility for the existing Medicare program and curtailing federal subsidies for fossil fuel companies. The group says it wants to make sure Biden keeps his promises on those and other top issues.

The shift reflects a progressive movement that is at a crossroads. Biden won the Democratic nomination last year by offering more centrist alternatives to much of Sanders’ agenda. Since then, progressive candidates have faced a series of electoral disappointments and are contending with anxiety from moderate Democrats worried that the party’s leftward shift could cost them control of Congress during next year’s midterm elections.

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“What we’re trying to build is something that is longer term” and ‘’part of the overall ecosystem of the progressive movement,” Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution’s executive director, said in an interview.

“I think we are rooted in a bold, progressive vision, but we’re also pragmatic progressives,” Geevarghese said.

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Hard-right lawmakers seek to oust pair from GOP group

WASHINGTON — Conservative lawmakers made a push Thursday to boot Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger out of House GOP groups because the two defied party leaders and joined the chamber’s special committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The effort by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus faces uncertain prospects. House Republican leaders have exhibited little interest in acting quickly against the two mavericks, which could fuel a fight that would distract from the party’s preferred focus on issues such as inflation, crime, and immigration.

The move is the latest example of turmoil over the GOP’s message and image, even as Trump’s shadow continues to loom large over the party.

Banishing Cheney of Wyoming and Kinzinger of Illinois from the House Republican organization, called the GOP conference, would threaten an end to their committee assignments. It would also deny them other normally routine privileges such as attending closed-door Republican strategy meetings.

Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, who leads the roughly 40-member Freedom Caucus, told reporters Cheney and Kinzinger chose to “join the Democrats on a witch hunt” against Republicans. He said it makes little sense to let them into private meetings where GOP lawmakers strategize against Democrats.

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Biggs said letting the two into such sessions would be like having “two spies sitting right there. You knew they were spies, but you couldn’t remove them.”

Cheney and Kinzinger are outspoken Trump critics who agreed to let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appoint them to the Jan. 6 investigative committee.

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